Day 1 – Expect the unexpected

December 5, 2015

Day 1 – Amazon 2015

We got to the docs ahead of the 9 am meeting with the Brazilian TV. Our expedition has attracted the interest of the national news – 14 women from around the world on a mission to make the unseen plastic seen. Having been photographed from all angles including wearing all the sponsors kit (thank you sponsors for making the trip possible!) we said our goodbyes to Emily Penn and then had a briefing of what the next 18 + days at sea would look like – expect the unexpected Imogen, our Captain, said. She then assigned us to three teams and gave us tasks to complete before departure. Everyone was pitching in and there was excitement in the air – we were about the leave on our adventure!

We were all ready to go when the unexpected happened (already I thought!).

Our engine was overheating and leaking due to a pressure build up. Emily (first hand) and Imogen stuck their heads and hands into the engine compartment, underneath the companionway. Heat below the deck was crazy given the 1 pm heat. On closer examination they discovered that corrosion over many years had caused a blockage in the raw water cooling system. A mechanic was called to come and take a look. His analysis was that the engine was running well enough that it might carry us through to Guyana. The age of some of the hoses and other components were still of concern especially since we were going to have to use our motor when travelling down the river in the jungle. The decision was made to wait until the morning when the mechanic would return with replacement components.

We took advantage of the change of plans to get a science briefing from Emily Penn and Diana. Lucy and Katarina served a yummy vegetable curry in the cockpit. Everybody was relaxed and getting ready to go to bed when Sarah asked me whether I thought we were drifting. I looked up to check at which point Sarah alerted the others. We had drifted over 20 m from our original anchor point and were continuing to drift. Imogen issued an order that we were all to put our life jackets on and get on deck. We are all up on deck in a flash. The situation would not have been so alarming if our engine was working. However since the mechanic took bits of it with him there was no way of restarting the engine. We were slowly drifting towards boats moored on the other side of the river.

Half the crew was assigned to inflating the dinghy so we had the option of abandoning ship in the worst-case scenario. Luckily it did not come to that at all – the other members of the crew repositioned the anchor within 20 min. After about an hour things were calm again. Another unexpected was tackled and we had not even left the port!

I slept soundly that evening knowing that Imogen, Emily and Holly were keeping watch. Yesterday morning the mechanic came with new engine parts. Whilst he was doing that part of the crew was tasked with deflating and stowing the dinghy. Shannon and I were on mother watch for 12 hours from 8 am so it was our task to prepare lunch. Having soaked the chickpeas since the morning I boiled them, chopped loads of garlic, mixed tahini, salt, oil and made humus. We also made tabbouleh with coriander a fresh lettuce salad and served cheese and crackers. By 1pm all the chores were done and we were ready to leave. This time we did sail off.

As the water changed colours from green, to light blue to deep blue we left the city of Recife behind. The teams on watch smoothly replaced each other. I unfortunately had to abandon my domestic watch task of cooking dinner as I was terribly seasick. The tablets did not seem to work. I will spare you the gruesome details … I feel better now and was able to take part of my watch this morning at 8 am, man the helm for an hour and am now writing this blog. All is great!

By Ana Stanic, our Environmental Lawyer in Residence

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